A massive fire Thursday night heavily damaged a former school whose history stretches back to the era of racial segregation in public education. The building at 1128 Martin Luther King Drive was known as the former George Washington Carver School, which once served as the only black high school in Jackson County until 1966.
A resident who lives near the former school reported seeing flames inside the structure about 8:50 p.m., said Jackson County Sheriff A. J. Louderback.
When firefighters arrived, flames were shooting out of the windows and the building's interior was engulfed by the blaze.
Edna Fire Chief Wendell Hamilton said machines were used to tear down walls in the southeast corner of the school to prevent the blaze from spreading.
Hamilton said smoke damage spread to other areas of the school building, but as of 11:35 p.m., the fire continued to burn. He said the cause is unknown, but the fire marshal will soon begin an investigation. Old books and papers are thought to be what helped the fire grow, Hamilton said.
Edna Fire Department and firefighters from LaWard, Ganado, Lolita, Vanderbilt and El Campo assisted at the scene.
Firefighters said they thought the section where second-grade students once occupied the building was destroyed by the fire.
Over the years, the school was used as both an elementary and a high school.
George Washington Carver School was completed in 1954 after E.T. and Mamie White Rose donated 12.5 acres. It served as the only black high school in Jackson County until 1966, when the Edna school district, under pressure from the federal government, integrated its high school students.
The school is in a historically black neighborhood in Edna once known as the Harlem Addition.
After the school was forced to desegregate in 1966, the campus was expanded over time and was used as Edna Elementary until the mid-1990s.
The George Washington Carver Community Center bought the property in October 2008 for $100 from the Edna school district to use it as a space for social services.
Written by Bianca Montes